How Did The Grateful Dead Get Their Name? [Solved]

The name Grateful Dead has become synonymous not only with their music, but also a whole generation of jam band goers. Today it is a house hold name even among those who do not listen to the Grateful Dead. So how did the Grateful Dead get their name?

The Grateful Dead got their name from Funk & Wagnalls New Practical Standard Dictionary after Jerry opened the book and immediately came across the term Grateful Dead. Jerry and Phil loved the meaning behind the term and the Grateful Dead name was born.

Continue reading to learn more about Grateful Dead’s name including it’s significance as well as what their name was before the change.

How Did The Grateful Dead Get Their Name

What Was The Original Name of The Grateful Dead?

The original name of the Grateful Dead was The Warlocks. The Warlocks were formed in 1965 in Palo Alto, California and it was under this name that the early beginnings and foundation of the soon to be Grateful Dead were formed.

Jerry Garcia saw this early introduction of the band as a blues band in one sense and a mutated blue grass band on a certain level. The overall idea of the band was to have the instruments talk to each other. An idea that is deeply rooted in the blues and extremely difficult to pull off well.

It was under this name that the infamous Acid Tests concerts were performed. The Acid Tests were the true breeding ground of The Warlocks as they were able to hone in on their craft without judging eyes on them.

“The Acid Tests experience really formed the band as a group mind. And the audience was part of that. That’s how the Grateful Dead evolved as they did was because everyone listened really hard to each other.”

Phil Lesh, Long Strange Trip Documentary

When Did The Grateful Dead Change Their Name?

The Grateful Dead changed their in 1966, 7 months after naming their band The Warlocks. They did this because there was another competing band called The Warlocks already.

This band would eventually change their name to the Velvet Underground. The Grateful Dead had no contest against the Velvet Underground because Velvet already had a record out under The Warlocks name. There was no bad blood between the two bands because of the identical names. In fact, they toured together for a few shows in later years.

How Did The Grateful Dead Get Their Name?

Jerry Garcia went over to Phil Lesh’s house and started looking through some books. He picked up Funk & Wagnalls New Practical Standard Dictionary. Jerry opened it up and the first thing he saw was “Grateful Dead”. It immediately grabbed his attention as a striking combination of words. He later found out the meaning behind it which sold him on the name.

“It’s just repellent enough to filter curious on-lookers. I turned to Phil and said hey man how about the Grateful Dead jokingly.”

Jerry Garcia, Long Strange Trip

Jerry loved it because the name was about karma. How you live your life and how you relate to other people. By confronting death, you learn how to live. This was a quote that Jerry had familiarity with as he confronted death at a very young age.

After Jerry and Phil found that name, they discontinued their search. This was the perfect name that enveloped everything Jerry had set out to do with this band. A name that had

Find Out How Jerry Garcia Got His Tone Today!

What Does Grateful Dead Mean?

The mythology around this name is quite interesting. It goes as such. A hero happens across a mysterious stranger which later turns out to be a corpse who helps the hero to achieve his quest. Jerry found the name creepy but amazing.

The concept of the Grateful Dead name embraced all of the spiritual rebirth aspect of what the band was trying to do and what they experienced at the Acid Tests.

They were grateful to be dead because now they were going to be born anew into this incredible world as Phil likes to put it.

How Did The Grateful Dead Get Their Logo?

The Grateful Dead got their infamous ‘Steal Your Face’ logo after Bear Stanley decided the band needed an easier way to identify their equipment at festivals. Bear Stanley started spray painting the design on all of the Grateful Dead’s gear. This design was inspired by a road sign that he saw driving through California.

Although, the design that Bear was using excluded the skull. It was simply the lightning bolt with blue on one side and red on the other. It wasn’t until he asked his roommate for help that they true design would take hold.

Bear Stanley showed the design to his roommate and graphic designer Bob Thomas. Bob then created the final Steal Your Face design that we know and love today.

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